Mounting evidence indicates that the amount and type of fat in the diet can have important effects on bone health. Most of this evidence is derived from animal studies. Of the few human studies that have been conducted, relatively small numbers of subjects and/or primarily female subjects were included. The present study assessed the relation of dietary fat to hip bone mineral density (BMD) in men and women using NHANES III data (n = 14,850). Multivariate models using SAS-callable SUDAAN were used to adjust for the sampling scheme. Models were adjusted for age, sex, weight, height, race, total energy and calcium intakes, smoking, and weight-bearing exercise. Data from women were further adjusted for use of hormone replacement therapy. Including dietary protein, vitamin C, and beta-carotene in the model did not influence the outcome. Analysis of covariance was used to generate mean BMD by quintile of total and saturated fat intake for 4 sex/age groups. Saturated fat intake was negatively associated with BMD at several hip sites. The greatest effects were seen among men < 50 y old (linear trend P = 0.004 for the femoral neck). For the femoral neck, adjusted mean BMD was 4.3% less among men with the highest compared with the lowest quintile of saturated fat intake (BMD, 95% CI: highest quintile: 0.922 g/cm2, 0.909-0.935; lowest quintile: 0.963 g/cm2, 95% CI: 0.950-0.976). These data indicate that BMD is negatively associated with saturated fat intake, and that men may be particularly vulnerable to these effects.